The nation's three largest airlines say they will match a highly restricted discount fare program launched by Trans World Airlines Inc.
American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines said they would match the program, announced this week by TWA.To take advantage of the discount fares, passengers must buy their tickets by June 7, flights must be booked seven days in advance and travel must be completed on or before Dec. 13.
In addition, the fares are non-refundable, require a Saturday night stay and are good for travel only Tuesday through Thursday.
For passengers who meet those requirements, the airlines offer round-trip fares of $198 for certain domestic flights of less than 1,500 miles and $298 on flights of more than 1,500 miles.
Delta, for example, said it would cut its lowest round-trip fare between Atlanta and Washington to $198 from $239. The round-trip fare between Atlanta and New York would fall to $198 from $301.
Industry analysts said they did not think the fare cuts would have a major impact on airline revenues because of the restrictions. One analyst said a greater concern is a growing trend of airline discount coupons.
"Price-cutting is not coming so much in fares as in other means, like the coupons," said the analyst, who asked not to be identified. "With capacity rising, this simply is not an environment where you can raise fares and sell seats."
Industry sources said American Airlines is distributing discount coupons in a direct marketing appeal, and on Monday United Airlines published coupons in major newspapers offering $35 discounts.